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Ebay Is Pulling a Tumblr by Banning Adult Content

Sorry, nipples. It's time to pack up.

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eBay is taking a page right out of the Tumblr handbook and enacting a ban on most adult or explicit content on its site. As first noticed by Adult Video News, the notice was sent out today to sellers in its “Adult Only” section, with the ban coming into effect on June 15, 2021.

“We have revised our Adult Items policy,” the notice reads, according to AVN. “Starting June 15, 2021, items showing sexual activity, sexual content or sexually suggestive poses will no longer be allowed on”

And reading through the ebay policies on this adult content ban, the language is a bit confusing and pretty PG. Among the restrictions on listings under the new policy are “items that contain sexual material” and “items with sexual content, including showing provocative sexual poses, genitalia, or sexual activity.”

The policy also polices the bodies of women with a note on “female breasts where the areola or nipple is visible.” It begs the question, again, as to why women’s bodies are seen as inherently sexual when our nipples are shown but not sexual when that of a man’s nipple is exposed? The sexism is real and it shows, eBay.

The company went on to further explain its ban on nudity by saying that the following was prohibited: “modeled clothing that is see-through or very tight and shows human genitalia, the anus, or the nipple/areola of female breasts,” “male erections, even if the model is clothed,” and “people engaged in sexual contact or activity.”

Another bit of confusing language when it comes to this ban on adult content is the inclusion of “yaoi” in its prohibited items. For those not in the know, yaoi is a genre of fictional media that features relationships between male characters that are homoerotic—nothing inherently “adult” about it unless you’re homophobic. This genre has a strong presence around the world, becoming a haven for those seeking “boys love” or “BL” stories.

The inclusion of yaoi in this ban is hitting me, and plenty of people online, with the same vibe we got when Tumblr enacted its ban on adult content, basically purging its site of any and all LGBTQ-friendly content and the communities built around it. eBay might not be as socially oriented as Tumblr, but it’s an avenue for queer content.

The deeper that I dive into this adult content ban, the more ridiculous it appears to be, as well. On one hand, “Adult films and video games with a rating of X, XXX, R18, or unrated for an adults-only audience” are prohibited. But on another hand, Playboy, Playgirl, Mayfair, and Penthouse are allowed “as long as the listing does not contain nude images or explicit content.”

Make it make sense for me, eBay. Because from where I’m standing, you’re trying to make your site “safer” in the same manner Tumblr declared it was doing back in 2018. And you’re doing it with a confusing ban that gatekeeps “adult” content, no matter if it’s inclusive like yaoi or non-sexual like women’s nipples.

eBay’s answer as to why they’re doing this is even more confusing. According to them, “We want to make adult items available to those who wish to purchase them and can do so legally, while preventing those who do not wish to view or purchase these items from easily accessing them.” That’s what filters are for, eBay.

Seriously, if buyers don’t want to see sexually explicit content on your site, all they have to do is have “explicit content” filtered. Simple. Done. And something that most sites have as default anyway. Instead, eBay is following in Tumblr’s footsteps and doing a wide-ranging ban on adult content with no nuance except for allowing bigwigs like Playboy and Penthouse on its site.

It’s a mistake on eBay’s part that erases LGBTQ and sex-positive communities where nipples aren’t seen as the end of the world, especially when they belong to women. And what is essentially a “business decision” to them is censorship on its own platform that will drive them into the ground as it did with Tumblr.

On a side note that is essential when talking about bans like this, these bans are a war on sex that is puritan in its belief that anything pleasure-related is wrong. And it infuriates me, in the same manner it did when Tumblr did its ban, that sexual expression is being throttled but white supremacists and Nazis are being given no such bans.

So, again, make it make sense for me, eBay. Because from where I’m standing, it doesn’t and will lead you down the same road Tumblr took before it became defunct. Just you wait, I’m calling it now.

(image: Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty)

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Lyra (She/Her) is a queer Latinx writer who stans badass women in movies, TV shows, and books. She loves crafting, tostones, and speculating all over queer media. And when not writing she's scrolling through TikTok or rebuilding her book collection.